New Zealand are set to tackle the 50 year long waiting list for gender-affirmation surgery, according to acting Associate Health Minister, James Shaw.
Shaw took to Facebook to announce that New Zealand’s health system “has never met the needs of transgender New Zealanders, and that has to change.”
New Zealand’s Labour coalition government now plans to dramatically increase the number of surgeries available to their transgender population. Surgeries were previously capped at three male-to-female surgeries and one female-to-male surgery every two years, but that cap will now be lifted.
Advocate for Tranzaction Aoteroa welcomed the news, saying, “It is going to make such a lot of difference to a lot of people, and there is great relief and excitement in the trans community.
“It gives people hope, and before there was very little or no hope. As a community we have been ignored and put on the back burner for a long time. But it feels like our concerns have finally fallen on sympathetic ears.”
According to Newsroom, the cap being lifted in June of this year has lead to eight patients being considered for gender-affirmation surgery, which is almost half of the total surgeries completed since the cap’s initial introduction in 2004.
There are currently 105 transgender people awaiting surgery in New Zealand, with 79 patients waiting for male-to-female surgery and 26 waiting for female-to-male.
Documents obtained suggest that it would take 50 years to get through the waiting list if the cap was not lifted.
Vic Roper, who is scheduled for surgery in November, told The Guardian, “It was not a waiting list before, it was a ‘We’ll put your name here and never think about it again’ list. I feel the Labour government has a really different perspective on the country and who gets priority. They are really thinking about minority groups and trying to give them more of an even playing field.”
He said he saw “no point” in joining the waiting list because, “by the time I got to the top of the list, I would be too old to appreciate it.”
More available treatments are likely to vastly improve the health and well-being of transgender New Zealanders, which is said to be significantly worse than that of the country’s general population.
A survey conducted in 2012 of 8,500 youth found approximately 40 percent of transgender students had “significant” depressive symptoms, and that almost half had self-harmed in the past 12 months and one in five had attempted suicide in 2017.
Gender affirmation surgery in New Zealand is notoriously expensive and difficult to avail of. The country’s only specialist in male-to-female surgeries retired in 2014, meaning the country has not been able to provide it since then, although a few publicly funded surgeries have taken place overseas.
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